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Hobby time is precious when you have a young one in the house. Given that, I continue to evaluate my various hobbies to understand what I get out of them. Lately I’ve been thinking about what I learn from each hobby beyond the physical skills.

  • Trap Shooting: Performance under pressure.
    Once you get the hang of it, trap shooting is a hugely mental activity. Sure there are lots of physical aspects to keep in mind and to analyze when you get on a bad streak, but when you’re in the zone, the hardest part is focusing on one shot at a time. It’s easy at the start of the round, but once I start getting close to a perfect round, it’s incredible how my body reacts. My hands get clammy, my mind is racing with what kind of victory dance I’m going to do, and my arms literally start shaking. With experience, I’ve gotten better at controlling it, but the last time we were out and I hit 24 straight, my last shot was almost comically bad. This feels a lot like my (very) old days of high school baseball. Standing alone on the pitchers mound in high pressure situations is another mind game. I’ve thrown tens of thousands of pitches, but I had to overcome the mental pressure to throw one more.
  • Woodworking: Sometimes perfection is required.
    Over the past 5-10 years, I’ve become a big proponent of “done is better than perfect.” There are so many cases where you simply being done is a lot more beneficial than taking it from 95% correct to 100% correct. Woodworking isn’t usually one of those cases. Small errors along the way pile up into bigger and bigger problems until I just wish I could go back to the beginning and start over. A well-done project is a wonderful reward and a constant reminder that sometimes it pays to spend extra time and get closer to perfection.
  • Remote Control Flying: Failure is ok as long as you learn from it.
    You can’t fly RC planes without experiencing crashes. Lots of them. If you’re lucky, your crash results in a quick repair, but sometimes you end up with bits of plane scattered across the field. If you can’t pick up the pieces (literally and emotionally) and still want to keep going, this isn’t the hobby for you. It takes a different mindset to watch tens of hours of work explode in a couple seconds. But if you stop there, you probably WILL get fed up because you’ll keep repeating the mistakes. Each crash has something to teach me. Loose connection? Incorrectly configured transmitter? Lapse of focus? Misjudged the conditions? It’s fine to fail once, but repeating the same mistake over and over again is not only painful and costly, it means you’re not taking the opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
  • Skiing: Be humble and keep pushing.
    As people get into skiing (including me), they seem to progress from someone who knows they are a newbie, to someone who thinks they are awesome because they can ski circles around everyone they see, to someone who finally realizes that there is more to life than the groomed runs and there are a LOT of people who are infinitely better than you. Going to that last phase is humbling but it’s awesome. You realize that you can never master it all so you pick one area and try to improve until you decide to move on to another area. Once you’re in that phase, the challenge is continuing to push yourself. It’s so easy for me to stick with what I know and enjoy instead of doing something that makes me a little nervous or is just a little beyond my abilities. There’s a popular saying, “If you’re not falling, you’re not learning.”

I think you could take any one of these and easily see how the lessons from the hobby are easily extrapolated into general life. These lessons are an added benefit to the physical enjoyment of the hobby and hopefully help us improve ourselves beyond the skillset that we’ve learned.

For this latest helping tower project, I needed to cut off a bunch of pieces that were all exactly the same length to use as rungs for the tower. I tried to get something set up with the chop saw, but it just wasn’t the right tool. That’s when I learned about crosscut sleds. It fits into the rails on my table saw, holds the wood perfectly square to the blade, and allows for very repeatable cuts. Marc Spagnola of The Wood Whisperer fame has a good post/video on his site showing how to make a crosscut sled and what you can do with it. I followed his design and was very pleased. Mine still needs a little tweaking but it’s more than good enough to get the job done.

If you’re unconvinced that you need one in your shop, go to his post and play the video starting at the 15:38 mark. He walks through 5 different uses for it.

Yuck. I said the Seahawks wouldn’t make it to the Super Bowl. Now I’m just hoping they can make the playoffs. They got pushed around in the first half but had a better second half. That non-review call at the end of the game seems insane to me, but it still would have been a stretch to win from that point and they never should have been there in the first place. The fake punt was an incredibly gutsy call, and the misdirection on the punt return earlier in the game was one of the coolest special teams plays that I’ve seen in a long time. Too bad they were performed against the Seahawks and not BY the Seahawks.

Our league saw a bunch of low scores except for Tim and Austin who cranked out good performances. First, second and third place (Tim, Jim and Luke) are now pulling ahead of the rest of us who are fighting for the final playoff spot. Austin had the highest score for the second week in a row. He’s coming on strong. And despite owning the two highest scoring players in the league this week (Wilson and Manning), Andy had the lowest score for the second week in a row.

Now on to the weekly awards.

  • Highest Team Score
    • This Week:  Austin had 154.90
    • Season: In Week 5, Jim had 160.52
    • All-Time: In 2013, Tim had 195.50
  • Lowest Team Score
    • This Week:  Andy had 87.20
    • Season: In Week 3, Luke had 55.04
    • All-Time: In 2011, Luke had 47.01
  • Biggest Blowout
    • This Week:  Tim beat me by 42.84
    • Season: In week 5, Tim beat Dad by 81.60
    • All-Time: In 2010, Luke beat Andy by 113.02
  • Closest Win
    • This Week:  Logan beat Dad by 9.19
    • Season: In Week 2, Austin beat Ben by 1.7
    • All-Time: In 2012, Jim beat Ben by 0.12
  • Highest Scoring Player
    • This Week:  Russell Wilson had 41.12 for Andy
    • Season: In Week 6, Joe Flacco had 42.24 as a free agent
    • All-Time: In 2013, Peyton Manning scored 60.28 for Andy
  • Longest Winning Streaks:
    • Active:  Jim has a 4 game winning streak
    • Season: Tim had a 5 game winning streak
    • All-Time: In 2011, Micah had an 8 game winning streak
  • Longest Losing Streaks:
    • Active:  Dad and Andy have 3 game losing streaks
    • Season: Dad, Andy and Austin had 3 game losing streaks
    • All-Time: In 2011, Kyle had a 14 game losing streak

And hey, good news, only one more month of this ridiculously long annual streak of wearing pink.

We grew up in the middle of the woods and pretty much no one ever saw our house except us and our guests. We put up a few lights to enjoy ourselves, but as far as a public display goes, there was no point. Ever since I moved into more populated areas, I’ve wanted to get into Christmas lights, but I’ve been hemming and hawing over exactly what I want to do. This past weekend, I finally took the plunge.

Tim and Chelsea have alternating red and white bulbs on their house and I really like that look. Unfortunately it’s hard/impossible to find this in a strand of lights off the shelf. It’s also quite difficult to find interchangeable LED bulbs to make my own alternating strand.

I gave up looking for the cheaper consumer grade products to fill my needs and splurged on the professional grade stuff. You buy the cord with empty sockets and then buy individual bulbs to screw into them. Theoretically, these should stand up to the elements better and if/when they do need maintenance, I can replace just the piece that is broken. It also lets me do whatever light pattern I want.

We’re starting small with the theory that we can build more each year. The lights will follow our garage peak and then follow the gutter line around to the cedar tree on the corner of the house. I wonder how long I need to wait before I’m that weird guy who puts up his lights too early?

After seeing this helping tower on Amazon, I thought it would be perfect for Elijah. He loves to see what we’re doing up on the counter or what I’m working on at the workbench in the garage. But $200!? That seemed a bit crazy and I figured I could build it myself. I was going to start designing some plans, but then a quick search landed me at Ana White’s awesome website. She has very nice plans for a tower that’s very similar to the one at Amazon. A quick trip to Home Depot for some wood and I was off and running.

The build went pretty quickly. The only part that was a little tricky was that I decided to add hinges so it would fold flat for easy moving/storage. I had to do a couple assembly/disassembly cycles to get the pieces all cut right so it would open up square and not bind. After that it was time for sanding and a few coats of polyurethane.

This was my first build using a new brad nailer and it was a huge help. I told Tyla it almost feels like cheating! That feeling was diminished by my lack of skill as I continually shot nails out the sides of my pieces, but I’ll get better with practice.

Elijah LOVES his tower. He immediately figured out how to climb up and the highest setting for the platform is perfect for him. As he grows, the platform is easy to remove and insert at a lower rung.

Remember that $200 tower on Amazon? My bill was $21 for wood, $18 for hinges and then a little sandpaper and polyurethane that I already had laying around. $39. BAZINGA!

P.S. I don’t know if you can see it in the photos, but Elijah had just come in from playing in the dirt and I missed a spot right on the bridge of his nose. Ha!

A while back I wrote a post wondering why there were no good sites with woodworking plans that were nicely categorized and reviewed. Most of my requirements in that post have been met at http://ana-white.com

There are over 1000 plans on the site and they are all free. Each one that I’ve looked at has had very detailed diagrams, cut lists, etc and none of them have been too terribly complicated. You’re not going to find heirloom quality pieces here for the most part, but there is are a lot of great ideas for around the house.

I’ve burned a lot of time flipping through the projects and getting ideas. Stay tuned for a post about one project I’ve already built using plans from this site!

This summer, I spotted the Bing street view vehicle a couple of times in our area. One of the times, I was out on a walk with Elijah.

The car also drove past our house in the middle of our yard project so the side yard looks oh so beautiful.

But Tim wins for the picture they took driving past his house.

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